Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Fast and Easy, Kerala Style Eggplant, Vegan and Gluten Free.

   It's been very busy around here which is why I've had a bit of time between posts. It's not that I haven't been cooking, I have been. It's more like what I've been cooking.  What's been coming out of the kitchen lately is a lot of vegan and gluten free  food. I've been working with my friends at CocoaPlanet who are opening their chocolate factory and Cafe here in Sonoma. I've been hired to help design the menu at the cafe which will be ALL Gluten Free! There are also going to be vegan and vegetarian offerings along with meat dishes. Besides their delicious chocolates, they'll be serving pizzas, quiches, salads, sandwiches, and of course delightful desserts. If you follow me on Instagram, you've likely seen some of the things they'll be featuring.
   We've also been prepping a second run of The Chaunk, our Indian Spice Kits, which have sold out in the Rancho Gordo Store in the San Francisco Ferry Building, and also at J.James here in Sonoma. We've been getting our Chaunk online store ready also, so we can make them available to everyone. There are a few other projects in the pipeline too, so this has been a pretty busy time for us. On top of that, I finished my chemo today. It's been a long year and a half, a lot of ice hats and spices under the bridge. So, back to Indian Food and writing! What better way to kick off a cold and luckily rainy January here in Sonoma than a hot and spicy, easy to prepare Kerala eggplant dish.


Kerala Style Coconut Eggplant


Here's What You Need:

1 eggplant
1/2 cup of coconut milk
1 Tbs dried, unsweetened ,shredded coconut
1 dried ,red chili ( I used Chiles de arbol from Rancho Gordo)
2 serrano chilies chopped
4 thin sliced rounds of ginger
1 shallot peeled and chopped
1 onion peeld and finelu chopped
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
3 Tbs  vegetable oil, (I use coconut oil)
salt to taste
1 Tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbs chopped fresh mint.

Here's What To Do:
Chop your eggplant into 1 inch pieces.

(Eggplant is a notorious oil sop. To cut down on the amount of oil in the dish, I place the cut up eggplant in the microwave for about 3 or 4 minutes, which softens it and partially cooks it, then I finish it in the pan with the spices. This reduces the amount of time the dish takes to prepare.)

Place the eggplant pieces in a covered microwave dish, and cook them for about 3 or 4 minutes. They will be tender when done. Set them aside.
Pour the coconut milk into a food processor or blender.

Add in the ginger...

...dried chiles...

...Serrano chilies...

...shallot and onion...

...and dried coconut.

Blend everything to a thick paste.

Finally add in the garam masala, coriander,and turmeric.

Blend it again, and set it aside.
Heat the coconut or vegetable oil in a skillet or kadhai.

When the oil is hot pour in the coconut spice paste.

 Cook it on medium high heat for about 4 minutes, until it starts to get fragrant and color a bit.
Drain the eggplants of whatever water they've given off while coking in the microwave and add them to the pan.

Add salt to taste. I used about 1 teaspoon.

Cook everything stirring over a high heat for about 4 minutes.

Then turn the heat down, put a lid on the pan and let things simmer for about 10 minutes.

Give it a stir every now and then to make sure nothing is sticking or burning.
When the eggplants are nice and soft and the spice mix cooked through, add in the lemon juice...

...cilantro and mint.

Stir everything together and cook for another minute or two. Check for seasoning, you can add a pinch of garam masala at this point if you wish, and serve it up.

   Hot, spicy, and delicious, this makes a great vegetarian/vegan offering for any weekday, or Meatless Monday meal. Pair it with a simple Basmati rice dish or any western entree and you are golden! Coming up next, speaking of Basmati Rice, I got the opportunity to taste some straight out of the Himalayas and have a great way to make plain rice something special. Follow along on Twitter@kathygori http://www.thecolorsofindiancooking.com

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Simple, Fast, and Made For Clean Eating: Butternut Squash Risotto.

   Over the last couple of months I've posted quite a few pictures of my incredible butternut squash crop this season. I love this particular vegetable and I've used it in a lot of my Indian recipes over the years.  However, butternut squash is loved by all cuisines, and as I've said before, when the holidays come round and I'm doing entertaining for my Italian family, my mind turns to pastas and risottos, traditional Italian comfort foods.

   My friend Judy Witts Francini aka Divina Cucina is another local Bay Area girl, a San Francisco pastry chef who has been cooking, living, and teaching cooking in Italy for the last 30 years. If you're going to Italy, Judy's the person to get in touch with for classes, culinary tours, and  anything you might want in food and wine. Very often late at night California time and early morning back in Florence, Judy and I text each other and talk food, and Italy. She happens to live in a village outside of Florence and buys her olive oil from Mrs. Gori of  Villa Il Pozzo  one of the Gori ancestral homes.

   Judy always gives me flashbacks of family cooking since I've spent the last 26 years mainly cooking Indian food. When I want a taste of "home cooking" she's always there with a recipe. Judy has given me recipes for things that I haven't seen outside the dining room of my grandparent's old Victorian house on Sacramento Street in San Francisco. Today I'm sharing a risotto recipe that I got from her. It's a quick, easy, recipe that's perfect for weeknight dinners as it can be on the table in about 20 minutes. After all the frantic holiday action we've had around here that's definitely a really good thing. So, without further ado, Butternut Squash Risotto.

Butternut Squash Risotto


 Here's What You Need:
1 Butternut squash
1 shallot, or 1 garlic clove thinly sliced
1 small piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 cup of peeled and cubed  Butternut squash
1 tsp toasted crumbled saffron
1 cup arborio rice
2 cups water
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
balsamic vinegar

Here's What To Do:
Cut the butternut squash into cubes and set it aside.

Thinly slice one shallot, or if you prefer, 1 garlic clove.

Peel and slice a 1 inch piece of ginger and chop it finely.

Set all of it aside.

Measure out 2 cups of arborio rice and a tsp of saffron.
Heat 1 Tbs of olive oil in a pot, swirl it around so that the bottom of the pot is coated in the oil.

When the oil is hot, toss in the ginger and shallot or garlic.

Stir everything around until the shallot or garlic is translucent, and starting to brown.

Add in the toasted crumbled saffron.

Add in the cubed butternut squash.

Stir it around so that it is coated with saffron, ginger, and shallot or garlic.
Add in the arborio rice and stir it around until it is hot to the touch.

Pour 2 cups of water into the mixture in the pot.

Bring it to a boil, then cover the pot, and turn down the heat.

Let everything cook for about 14 minutes. The water should be absorbed by then.
Stir the rice for the first time, then add in about 1/2 cup grated Parmesan...

...and another 1/2 cup of water and start stirring for real. The stirring will give the risotto a creamy texture without actually adding any cream.
Check for salt and add what you feel it needs.
Place it into individual bowls.
And get ready for the balsamic vinegar.

I always use Barrel Aged Balsamic from Sonoma Harvest.
Shave a bit of aged Parmesan over each serving.

Then drizzle a bit of aged balsamic over that.

Serve it up, and Florentine dinner is on the table.

   My ancestors couldn't have enjoyed anything better. Poking around in a bunch of family documents I read about a dinner given by one of the Goris and among the guests was The Sforza Duchess, and some Medicis. I don't know if this was on the table, but it should have been. Coming up next, a return to Indian food, I meet the champagne of Basmati Rice, and more clean eating for a clean New Year! Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Monday, December 28, 2015

Straight From Tuscany, Light and Delicious Chestnut Cake With Chocolate Ganache.

   It's the week after Christmas and as we enter the run up to New Years Eve and New Years Day and all that entails, there's been a whole lot of baking going on at our house. Part of the reason for that is the work that I've been doing for the new CocoaPlanet Cafe which will be opening here in Sonoma in the new year. All of the Pastries, and pastas are going to be gluten free so every week involves baking, and cooking, and every Saturday night for the last month or so, recipe testing and tasting. One of the naturally gluten free flours I have enjoyed using is an old standby from my childhood, Chestnut flour.
   Chestnut flour has long been part of Cucina Povera, or the Kitchen of the Poor, aka peasant food. It's a method of cooking using what is found and easily and cheaply accessible. Chestnuts and chestnut flour are one of those pantry staples that fits the bill. My family on both sides comes originally from Tuscany and the Piedmont region in Northern Italy and chestnut delicacies were often found on the family table at holidays. One of those delicacies is this light and delicious Chestnut Cake.

  I have a lot of gluten free friends and have cooked for them for years. Working with Indian food, leaving out gluten is pretty dang easy. Because of that, I always think the best gluten free food is stuff that is not a deliberate recreation of gluten laden foods, made gluten free, but recipes that were never made containing gluten. That way everybody wins. So if you get some chestnut flour (I found it easily on Amazon) a whole world of naturally gluten free baking opens up. Hello chestnut cake.

Chestnut Cake With Chocolate Ganache 


Here's What You Need: 
1 cup plus 1 Tbs chestnut flour
3/4 cup plus 1 Tbs sugar
7 Tbs salted butter at room temperature
3 Tbs milk
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder

Here's What To Do:
Preheat the oven to 320 degrees.
Take an 8 inch cake pan and grease it well.
Cut a piece of parchment paper and place it in the bottom of the cake pan.

Cut it to size.

Grease the paper too.

Set it aside.
Run the chestnut flour through a sieve or wire mesh basket to get out any lumps.

 Put all the ingredients for the cake in a large bowl and mix until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the well greased cake pan.

Place it in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. You'll know it's done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let it cool in the pan on a wire rack.
Then run a knife around the outside of the cake.

Place a plate over the top of the cake and upend it. Removing the cake from the pan. The bottom of the cake is now the top.
Remove the greased parchment paper from the top of the cake.
Prepare your ganache icing.


Here's What You Need:
 Five rounds (about 5 oz) of Cocoaplanet Deep Dark Truffle Chocolate
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1/2 cup whipping cream

Here's What To Do:
Gently melt the chocolate in a pan.

add in 2 Tbs unsalted butter.
Stir well.
Add in about 1/2 cup of whipping cream.

Mix everything together well. When the ganache is shiny and smooth set it aside to cool a bit.

When it has cooled sufficiently, start to ice your cake.

Pour the cooled ganache over the top and using a frosting knife smooth it around the sides.
Let the ganache set and when it has firmed up. Serve it up!

   There it is, a Tuscan treat. "Poor mans cake" made luxurious with chocolate.
Coming up next a quick and easy way to make Butternut Squash Risotto courtesy of my Friend Judy of Divina Cucina. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


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